Thursday, April 28, 2011

50 YA: A Volley of Rockets

Argo D-4 Javelin Sounding Rocket.

Fifty years ago, NASAexperienced a very busy week as experiments were launched into the atmosphere, into space, and testing the first American space capsule. On April 27th, 1961, NASA launched a Javelin rocket under direction of the Goddard Space Flight Center. Its scientific payload was used to collect information about the density of electrons in the ionosphere, one of the highest levels of our atmosphere. I haven't been able to identify where the rocket was launched from.

Juno-2 Rocket.

I do know that the Explorer XI space probe was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral on the 28th. Lofted into orbit by the Juno-2 rocket, the probe was the first satellite designed to detect gamma rays coming from the farthest reaches of space.

Little Joe 5-b

Mercury spacecraft 14A was blasted from Wallops Island on the same day. This unmanned test of the Mercury space capsule gave NASA another practice round of launching and recovering the capsule. It seems to have been a perfect test, providing much needed data in preparation for launching our first astronaut into space. The capsule splashed down 9 miles from Wallops Station and was successfully recovered. It is currently displayed at the Virginia Air and Space Center.

Future design studies continued ini preparation for other Air Force and NASA programs. On the 28th, NASA engineers turned in their final report on using the Saturn booster (then under development) to theoretically launch the proposed Dyna-Soar space plane. The Dyna-Soar was under theoretical testing and in the design stage to be used as a reusable space glider for the Air Force.

Artist impression of a Dyna-Soar launch on a Titan booster.

No comments: